The Ruined Map

| Mar 1, 2014

The Ruined Map

Angela Carter wrote that Tokyo possessed the “indecipherable clarity of a dream,” one in which you might think you are in control, but have, in fact, been “precipitated into somebody else’s dream.” A similar sensation occurs when reading Kobo Abe’s novel, “The Ruined Map,” ...

The Tattoo Murder Case

| Feb 1, 2014

The Tattoo Murder Case

Still reeling from the effects of war, Tokyo, in 1948, was ripe with intrigue, not to mention men and women capable of plotting monstrous crimes. Akimitsu Takagi’s crime mystery “The Tattoo Murder Case” was first published that year and his gritty scenes of the ...

Exploring the realm of Lewchew

Jan 18, 2014

Exploring the realm of Lewchew

When I told the Japanese woman with whom I’d struck up a conversation in central Tokyo’s very handy Haneda airport that I was flying to Lewchew, she looked puzzled. The invading Japanese, struggling with the Chinese reading of the characters, pronounced the name of ...

Kitsuki's double visions of delight

Jan 4, 2014

Kitsuki's double visions of delight

The guesthouse I was staying at in Kitsuki was named after the owner, a tough but warm-hearted example of Kyushu womanhood, someone who had learnt to stand her own ground on an island known for its almost theatrical levels of machismo.

A garden sanctuary in the city

Dec 28, 2013

A garden sanctuary in the city

There is a visible nod to tradition in the shaping and use of natural materials to finish off the exterior of International House, a Modernist building in one of the nicer residential areas of Tokyo’s swank Roppongi district. A large part of the original ...

Epicenters of death

Dec 28, 2013

Epicenters of death

This study of the Great Kanto Earthquake by scholar Charles Schencking, begins not as you might expect, with the cataclysmic temblor of 1923, but with the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. In this latter event, optimism was predicated on the assumption ...

Lions and dragons of Japan's islands

Nov 25, 2013

Lions and dragons of Japan's islands

When I arrived at the workshop of Setsuko Oshiro in August, the sky was a clear blue and the heat like the inside of a kiln, but there were storm clouds gathering, dark thunderheads over the East China Sea. Sheltering from the blistering sun ...

Fun for all on Tokyo's Oku-Tama wild side

Nov 16, 2013

Fun for all on Tokyo's Oku-Tama wild side

Before I’d even set eyes on the river I heard a deep rumble from its bubbling gash of white and cobalt water rending apart the Tama Mountains. Officially part of Tokyo, Oku-Tama seems at a planetary distance from the metropolis of 35 million people. ...

Sweet times on sugar-isle Kohama

Oct 5, 2013

Sweet times on sugar-isle Kohama

In our minds, islands should be counter worlds, autarchies unsullied by continental concerns. We should arrive spellbound, leave anointed by their beauty. Wherever in the world you might be, it is virtually impossible to set foot on an island without experiencing the sensation that ...